A longtime Portland police officer has signaled her intent to file a lawsuit against the City of Portland for the Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) "ongoing pattern and practice of severe and pervasive discrimination" based on her sex, sexual orientation, race, national origin, marital status, and disability. Sgt. Liani Reyna, a 24-year veteran of PPB, is also seeking justice for the alleged "sustained and concerted retaliation" she's experienced from colleagues and leaders within the police bureau since she sued the PPB in 2002 for discrimination.
Reyna's attorney Diane Sykes detailed these allegations in a tort claim notice (a formal "heads up" to the state that an attorney's client plans to sue) sent to Portland's risk management office on March 18.
The complaint stems from Reyna's experience as the first female, gay, Hispanic member of PPB's Special Emergency Response Team (SERT). From 1999 to 2000, Reyna said she endured relentless sexist, racist, and anti-LGBT comments from the all-male team. (An example: One of the SERT team's alleged chants goes, "Rah, SERT team! Where every man's a tiger, a big fucking tiger, a big fucking tiger with a dick this big!")
This toxic work environment drove her to step down from the SERT team and file a workplace discrimination complaint with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). In 2002, she sued PPB in federal court for violating her civil rights. Reyna lost the federal trial related to the discrimination suit in 2005, and lost a subsequent appeal in the ninth circuit in 2008.
According to Sykes, Reyna's 2002 decision to call out her employer for having a "sexually hostile" work environment has impacted her career—and life—ever since.
"Reyna has experienced an ongoing pattern and practice of severe and pervasive discrimination and retaliation since the filing of a lawsuit against PPB," the notice reads.
Skyes cites five instances where Reyna was denied a position she applied to within PPB, the latest being her 2018 application to become a lieutenant. Sykes notes that Reyna's discrimination and retaliation concerns were ignored by leadership, including former PPB Chief Rosie Sizer.
Another wrinkle in Reyna's backstory: Reyna was the supervising sergeant present when PPB officer Ronald Frashour fatally shot Aaron Campbell, an unarmed and surrendering Black man who police believed to be suicidal, armed, and holding hostages. Reyna was chastised and penalized for not immediately calling SERT to respond when she arrived on the scene—a decision that many believe was based on her fraught relationship with the team.
Skyes notes that Reyna was unfairly blamed for her involvement in the Campbell shooting, because Reyna was "ordered away from her post by Deputy Chief Bob Day."
Another of PPB's top brass, Assistant Chief Ryan Lee, is accused of retaliation in the tort notice.
"In September 2016, [then-]Lieutenant Ryan Lee assigned Reyna with a crushing caseload and informed Reyna that she would burnout and fail." Lee later gave Reyna a negative performance review, a decision Skyes deems retaliatory.
During this time, Reyna and her former spouse, who is also a PPB employee, issued several workplace complaints against each other. Deputy Chief Day upheld the complaints brought against Reyna, but dismissed those she filed against her former spouse, another decision Sykes cites as retaliation.
Reyna seeks financial support from the city for "lost wages and future lost earnings, non-economic damages from emotional distress...loss of self-esteem and reputation," among other grievances. Sykes has yet to formally file a lawsuit.
PPB spokesperson Kristina Jones declined to comment on the notice, explaining in an email to the Mercury that the bureau is unable to comment on "pending litigation or personnel matters."
A spokesperson for Mayor Ted Wheeler, who serves as police commissioner, echoed Jones' response.